He Leaned, by Nancy Iannucci

He Leaned
by Nancy Iannucci


Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, 1969, Unknown photographer

He leaned elegantly against a viscid wooden beam as all suave men did at the Post House back in 1966, flipped on the winning bait like he was flinging pizza margarita dough six feet into the air catching it dexterously with one hand. His Neapolitan accent & Sal Mineo looks reeled them in on Saturday nights, but tonight he was determined to win this one; he had been tracking her with stealth ornithologist skill through marshes of people, tables, and empty Schlitz & Lambrusco bottles. He finally made his Mediterranean move.

“You looka lika Brigitte Bardot,” he said, as he leaned against this auburn-feathered bird whose lipstick was the shade of ghost that had the death drained out of it. She laughed & sardonically lifted a penciled eyebrow to an adjacent friend. She knew he was full of shit; Bardot’s hair was blond but she gave him the benefit of the doubt induced by his Plato-Rebel-Without-a-Cause innocence, and she later learned his name was, coincidentally, Sal.

The Yardbirds rescued his broken English; “For Your Love” shook her up like an electric shock and they found themselves on the dance floor. He shadowed her groove for his gallant mannerisms ebbed as fast as a tsunami; dancing made him feel nervous.

They continued to pull each other out of their comfort zones for the next three years until one spring morning he left her for Vietnam.

Months of silent nothingness drifted like a specter until a photograph arrived addressed “To Brigitte.” She went hazy like the image and could feel the oppressive heat and perilous unknown emanating in her hands but was comforted to see his Plato smile as he leaned alongside a lone palm tree that stood rooted at the edge of Cam Ranh Bay.

“That lean, the Post House lean,” she whispered, reminiscing.

He was still leaning for her, still watching her, longing to make his move in the midst of jungle chaos.

Process notes: I never knew this photograph of my father existed until just two weeks ago. It was taken by an unknown photographer who was documenting American soldiers stationed at Cam Ranh Bay during the Vietnam War, so naturally I was taken by this never-before-seen photo of my dad, and so started writing.

Nancy Iannucci is a historian who teaches history and lives poetry in Troy, NY. She has always been entranced by the mysticism of life and the fine line that exists between our world and the mystical. She feels, at times, like she inhabits some place in the middle and expresses herself through writing trying to reconcile her own existence in between these two realms; her work has been published by Performance Poets Association, Three Line Poetry, Red Wolf Journal, and Faerie Magazine (photography). ​

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